1 Minute Review
Charles Schwab is a solid choice for traders of all skill levels. It offers full access to the U.S. equity and options markets as well as 30 international markets. Traders can create a diverse portfolio with $0 commissions and no account minimums. Schwab’s margin trading is expensive but Schwab makes up for it with affordable futures and options trades, along with a comprehensive mobile offering.
- 3 trading platforms perfectly in sync makes matching your platform to your skill level a snap
- Excellent futures trading education for new traders
- $0 account minimum means anyone can start trading
- Wide range of available assets to trade, including futures and 30 global markets
- SmartStreet Edge platform is powerful enough for advanced traders, yet easy enough for new traders to utilize
- Unique educational resources (like infographics and podcasts) make learning fun
- Margin rates are more expensive than competitors
- More limitations on available margin than competitors
- Expensive mutual funds
Why Charles Schwab Over Others?
Should you open an account with Charles Schwab? Let’s take a look at some of the biggest benefits the platform offers.
- Comprehensive futures trading: From currencies to major indexes, Charles Schwab offers one of the most robust futures selections we’ve seen.
- Intuitive yet powerful platform: Charles Schwab’s primary trading platform, SmartStreet Edge, contains a number of powerful trading tools but it’s easy to navigate and customize for new traders.
- Impressive mobile safety features: Charles Schwab’s facial and thumbprint recognition and multi-layer encryption technology is comforting. If you’re hacked, 100% of your assets are guaranteed with Charles Schwab’s safety guarantee.
Brokerage Quick Summary
|Tradable assets||Stocks, options, ETFs, mutual funds, bonds, futures|
|Platform||Wide range of screening tools and indicators available|
|Mobile app||Fully operational, mirrors desktop web trading platform|
|Available account types||Taxable, traditional and Roth IRA, 529 college savings accounts|
Charles Schwab Fees, Commissions, Margin Rates and Account Minimums (4 stars)
Just like other brokers, Schwab has taken steps to lower its pricing to appeal to new investors. You’ll pay $0 commission on stock and ETF trades and you can get started investing with a $0 account minimum. Let’s take a look at what you might expect to pay when you invest with Charles Schwab.
|Stocks and ETFs||$0 commission|
|Options||$0.65 per contract|
|Futures||$1.50 per contract|
|Mutual funds||Access to over 3,000 mutual funds; 30 fee-free funds available, otherwise you’ll pay a fee of up to $49.95|
|Bonds||$0 on most government-issued bonds|
Charles Schwab’s fees might be low but its margin rates are higher than some competitors. Margin rates begin at 9.325% APR for borrowers using less than $25,000 of margin credit. This is higher than comparable brokers. For example, Interactive Brokers charges about 2.59% APR, while Robinhood charges about 5% APR. If your primary concern is finding the lowest margin rates available, Charles Schwab might not be the best broker for you.
Lower rates are available to borrowers who use more margin up to $500,000. As a general rule, you can only borrow 50% of the value of the assets you have currently in your account. For example, if you have $10,000 in your brokerage account, you’d only be able to use a maximum of $5,000 worth of margin.
Charles Schwab Usability (5 Stars)
Charles Schwab’s primary desktop trading application, StreetSmart Edge, is a customizable trading platform you can use to chart, track and place informed trades. The platform is responsive, updating market data on a second-by-second basis. StreetSmart Edge is completely customizable. You can set individual stocks, funds or watchlists to populate immediately when you load up your app. You can also customize your layout by dragging and dropping different windows into specific areas of your screen.
StreetSmart Edge includes a number of intuitive and unique trading tools to help inform your trades. You can open dozens of orders at once, and view them all in 1 convenient window. If you decide to close out of all of your positions, you won’t need to flip through dozens of tabs. StreetSmart Edge includes a number of screening tools as well. You can organize stocks and ETFs by sector, indicator, volatility, average daily volume, candlestick patterns and more.
StreetSmart Edge also includes a set of live news offerings from traditional research outlets. You can view a commercial-free stream of CNBC live on your desktop 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. The platform also includes a robust live news stream, which allows you to sort breaking news stories by sector, specific keyword or name. You can also sort stocks by movement, quickly view the stocks that are making the biggest jumps and dives in value with just a few clicks.
If you’re a casual investor looking to place only a few trades a year (for example, if you’re only investing for retirement), you may prefer Schwab.com over StreetSmart Edge. Schwab.com’s web browser trading application allows you to enter buy and sell orders as well as manage and monitor your portfolio. Though Schwab.com doesn’t offer all of the fancy research and charting tools of StreetSmart Edge, its simplicity can be a welcome change for new investors looking for a less intimidating way to begin saving for retirement.
No matter which platform you choose, you’ll appreciate the customization tools and convenient balance bar included on each platform. Monitor your accounts on a daily or hourly basis by viewing your balance bar, which summarizes your account movements.
Charles Schwab Education (4 Stars)
Charles Schwab offers traders both online and in-app education tools you can use to improve your trading strategies and learn how to more effectively save for retirement. Let’s take a look at 3 unique education tools offered by Charles Schwab.
- Knowledge Center: Charles Schwab’s Knowledge Center hosts a large number of articles and calculators you can use to learn more about investing or see how much you can expect to save once you start investing or near retirement. Some topics include how to start saving for retirement, how to choose an attorney to handle your estate planning and the basics of saving for college. The articles in the Knowledge Center are very basic and won’t be of much use for intermediate and advanced investors. However, if you’re very new to investing, you’ll love the no-prior-knowledge articles and easy-to-understand tone of Charles Schwab’s Knowledge Center.
- Insights and Ideas: Charles Schwab’s Insights and Ideas section is full of breaking market news. You can read full-length articles written by in-house experts on everything from market volatility to changes in tax laws to advice on buying a home. You can organize articles by subject, format (podcast, written article, video, etc.) and even by a major life event. For example, the Insights and Ideas section offers a specific set of articles you can read before moving out of your parents’ home or getting a divorce. Like the information in the Knowledge Center, most articles are written with beginners in mind, focusing on a conversational yet informative tone.
- Podcasts: Charles Schwab also sponsors a number of educational podcasts on a variety of saving and investing topics. Interested in learning about the decision-making process and how you can learn to make more informed choices? You’ll love the Choiceology series. Want to learn more about the day’s top trading stories during your drive to work in the morning? Check out Schwab Market Update for the latest.
In addition to online education tools, Charles Schwab also sponsors a number of platform-based research tools as well, including a variety of stock and ETF screeners and a 24/7 live CNBC stream without commercials or ads. All education and research tools are free to use for Charles Schwab account holders.
Charles Schwab Customer Support (4 Stars)
Charles Schwab offers account holders a number of ways to get in touch with customer service.
- Phone: Call 866-855-9102 to contact Charles Schwab by phone. Customer service is available by phone 24/7 and specialty lines are available for Vietnamese, Chinese, Spanish and Cantonese speakers as well.
- Live chat: You can chat with a live Charles Schwab representative 24/7 on the broker’s website. To begin chatting, click on the “Chat” icon and log into your Charles Schwab account. You’ll be redirected to a chat room in the pop-up window.
- In person: As a banking and investing service, Charles Schwab operates a number of physical locations across the United States. To find the Charles Schwab branch closest to you, visit the company’s Branch Locator page and enter your location information.
- Physical mail: You may also communicate with Charles Schwab by sending a certified letter to one of its operations centers. Visit Charles Schwab’s customer service page, click on the plus sign on the “Services” tab and choose your state from the provided drop-down menu.
Charles Schwab currently doesn’t offer a specific helpline for men and women with hearing limitations.
Charles Schwab’s Offerings (4.5 Stars)
Charles Schwab offers a generous range of stocks, bonds, mutual funds and more. Let’s take a closer look at its list of current offerings.
Charles Schwab’s Stocks, ETFs and Mutual Funds
Charles Schwab offers you full access to the U.S. stock market, allowing you to buy and sell over 11,000 stocks and 2,000 ETFs with no commissions. Charles Schwab’s SmartStreet Edge includes a number of screening tools, including average expert rating, daily movement, average daily trading volume, price, beta rating and much more. In addition to U.S.-based equities, traders can also invest in 30 foreign markets and a separate set of screening tools are available for foreign and developing markets. Charles Schwab also offers access to over 3,000 mutual funds — though few funds come with $0 commissions.
Charles Schwab Options
Charles Schwab’s platforms support options trading on most major stocks and ETFs. You’ll pay just $0.65 a contract for your trades, and a number of options education resources and research tools are available to help you learn more about entering the market. From trailing stop order availability to live vice president of trading Randy Frederick’s Schwab Market Snapshot video series, Charles Schwab is an excellent platform if you’re a new options trader.
Charles Schwab Futures
Charles Schwab offers futures trading from $1.50 a contract. You can trade futures for general indexes, energies, metals, currencies, housing indexes in cities like Chicago and Los Angeles and even commodities like oil, milk, cheese, grain and live cattle. Charles Schwab also offers a specific series of videos to help you learn more about futures trading.
Charles Schwab Mobile App (4 Stars)
The Charles Schwab mobile app includes unique features to enhance your trading. Let’s take a look at a few of our favorite features available on the Schwab Mobile app.
- Full trading capabilities: Charles Schwab’s mobile app is fully functional and mirrors complete compatibility of the web-based platform. Search for assets, view your account balance and make trades with a few taps.
- Quick deposits: Don’t want to wait weeks for money to transfer from your bank to your trading account? Schwab Mobile allows you to take a photo of your paper check and deposit it directly into your account. Most checks submitted by 2 p.m. on a business day are deposited before the next day.
- Advanced safety features: The Schwab app includes multiple layers of security and encryption to keep your data safe. You can choose between a standard passcode unlocking feature, or you can use fingerprint or facial scanning technology. Schwab’s security guarantee also covers 100% of losses you incur due to unauthorized activity on your account.
The Schwab mobile app is available for free from the Apple and Google Play store.
How Does Charles Schwab Compare? (4 Stars)
Charles Schwab is a solid choice for both new and old investors alike. More advanced traders will love playing with the SmartStreet Edge tool, while novice traders will enjoy learning using the simplicity of the web-based platform. Charles Schwab’s mobile app keeps it basic but also offers all of the features of the desktop platform, and options and futures trades are affordable as well.
Though Charles Schwab could stand to do more to lower mutual fund and margin fees, the broker remains a solid choice for investors of all types. Consider Charles Schwab if you aren’t sure what you’d like out of a brokerage platform. Syncing between Schwab.com, Schwab Mobile and SmartStreet Edge means that you can switch, upgrade or downgrade as you please.